Distributed May 22, 2003
For Immediate Release

News Service Contact: Scott Turner

Brown awards research seed funds to four faculty groups

Brown University has provided four teams of faculty members a total of $356,000 in seed money to explore new lines of research and attract greater external funding for large-scale projects and centers.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Four research teams at Brown University have received a total of $356,000 in University seed funding to gather new data in bioengineering, biomaterials, human development and environmental change, according to an announcement by the Office of the Vice President for Research at Brown University.

The new Research Seed Fund program was created to “help faculty obtain external support, principally for large-scale multi-investigator projects and centers,” said Andries van Dam, vice president for research.

“By providing funds to seed new research, we aim to help faculty compete more often and more successfully for the large-scale, multidisciplinary, multiprincipal-investigator grants that are becoming increasingly common and that offer opportunities for transformative research and discovery,” he said. Major grants are available from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other external funding sources. Brown University researchers already conduct more than $100 million in research annually.

The four projects were chosen from proposals submitted by groups of faculty. They include:

Creation of cartilage biocomposites as a tissue-engineered solution to joint damage

Funding of $93,920 will ease the way for a new tissue-engineering collaboration among faculty members. “Organization of complimentary novel experimental approaches in tissue engineering would put Brown at the cutting edge of regenerative medicine,” said the researchers. Data collected from seed-funded research would be used in 2004 to support NIH and NSF grants. Faculty members include Michael J. Lysaght and Edith Mathiowitz from the Center for Biomedical Engineering and Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; and Roy K. Aaron, M.D., and Deborah McK. Ciombor, from the Department of Orthopaedics at Rhode Island Hospital.


A total of $99,500 will support two post-doctoral researchers, who will work within Brown’s NSF-sponsored Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). One individual will study engineered complex surfaces used in bio-hybrid devices and tissue engineering. The second will conduct research in molecular biomechanics and micro-fluidics. By expanding the MRSEC and University-level support, the seed fund support will help better place the MRSEC to compete for NSF funding in 2004. The project involves Clyde Briant, Kenneth Breuer, G. Tayhas R. Palmore and Thomas R. Powers, Division of Engineering; and Diane Hoffman-Kim and Jeffrey R. Morgan, Center for Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology.

Transient Hearing Loss and Milestones of Language Learning

A grant of $64,000 will be used to examine the incidence and etiology of temporary hearing loss during infancy and its impact on speech perception and production and language-related aspects of cognitive development. The researchers expect that the result from this initial effort will be a five-year multidisciplinary research project housed within the Center for the Study of Human Development at Brown; a follow-up five-year study would relate hearing loss and language development in infancy to school readiness and early academic performance. The project's five faculty members plan to submit a grant proposal to the NIH before October 2004. Those researchers include James Morgan and Katherine Demuth, Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences; Cynthia Garcia Coll, Department of Education; Michael E. Msall, M.D., from the Child Development Center at Rhode Island Hospital; and Ronald Seifer, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and the Center for the Study of Human Development.

Understanding and Modeling Land Cover-Land Use Change

A total of $98,000 will go toward deepening the understanding of the processes and impacts of land cover and land-use change. These factors are considered the most likely dominant drivers of environmental change over the next 50 to 100 years, yet the understanding of these fundamental processes and their impacts is in its infancy. This project includes a proposal to study eutrophication and hypoxia in Narragansett Bay, and is part of an effort at Brown to develop an interdisciplinary research program in the field of environmental change. According to the faculty members involved, the anticipated result will be the development of research funding proposals to be submitted to NSF, NASA, NIH, as well as private foundations. Investigators include Jack Mustard and Warren Prell, Department of Geological Sciences; Mark Bertness and Johanna Schmitt, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; and Andrew Foster, Department of Economics.